Preparing for the end of the transition period

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 and is in the transition period until 31 December 2020. This guide provides general advice.

Last updated: Monday 7 September 2020.

Following the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement by the UK and EU Parliaments, the UK formally left the EU at 23:00 GMT on 31 January 2020, entering into an eleven-month ‘Transition Period’ which closes at 23:00 GMT on 31 December 2020.

We have compiled this practical, user-friendly and accessible guide for the seafood industry in the UK on preparing your business for the end of the Transition Period. The guide focuses on three areas:

  • food safety
  • traceability
  • trade

During the Transition Period, the UK will no longer be a member of the EU’s political structures, but will remain in the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union and Common Fisheries Policy.

EU rules will therefore continue to apply. In practice, the UK will continue to trade as if it is still an EU member state until the end of 2020, with no changes to current import/export practices.

Under the terms of the withdrawal agreement Northern Ireland remains in the UK customs union and also in the EU single market. This creates a unique situation and much of detail of the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol is still being negotiated. Where possible we have included additional guidance on trading with Northern Ireland. 

For more information the UK government has published The Northern Ireland Command Paper and Business Guide

This is very much an 'as is’ guide and will routinely be reviewed and amended as circumstances change. 

You can also view this guide as a PDF.

Section 1 - General

1.1 Will there still be different rules across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

A recent Food Standards Agency (FSA) consultation considered food safety and hygiene to be a matter for the pan-UK framework (a mechanism that ensures policy consistency or coordination in some areas between the UK and devolved administrations). However, composition and standards, health claims etc. remain devolved competencies. There is recognition of the risk of multiple standards and labelling for different UK nations. While issues involving trade remain devolved, there will be an agreement on a pan-UK basis of the regulatory aims. However, regulatory measures and enforcement will be left to the devolved administrations for decision.

A consultation on the UK internal market  was launched in July 2020 to legislate against barriers to trade or discrimination in the UK internal market. 

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

1.2 What status will the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), have in regard to the UK seafood industry?

The direct jurisdiction of the CJEU will continue to apply in full in the UK during the transition period – currently until 31 December 2020. For a subsequent eight year period following the end of the transition period, the CJEU will have a role as regards the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK.

In future, a joint committee of UK and EU officials will meet to decide general UK/EU disputes. If no agreement on a case is reached, a dispute resolution mechanism – a neutral ‘arbitration panel’ – will be formed.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

1.3 What status will EU scientific bodies such as EFSA etc. have?

It is understood from the Political Declaration (the document stating aspirations concerning the future political relationship between the UK and EU) that the “…Parties will explore the possibility of cooperation of United Kingdom Authorities with Union agencies…”

In the event of the transition period closing without a future agreement in place, EFSA will not be required to undertake any functions relating to the UK government – all functions relevant to the UK currently performed by EFSA (and similar pan-EU scientific bodies) will be assumed by the competent UK authority/agency. For example, food and feed risk assessments will be undertaken by the Food Standards Agency and its Advisory Scientific Committees, and nutrition and health claims will be covered by the UK Nutrition and Health Claims Committee (UKNHCC) (see point 2.21)

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

1.4 Can I apply EU certification marks to my goods?

The EU certification mark, the CE mark does not apply to food, but it may apply to certain packaging materials. If your packaging currently uses a CE mark you may need to use a UKCA mark. Find out further information. 

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

1.5 When EU legislation is rolled over to become UK law, what will happen to legislation in force but not currently applicable?

The UK Government’s European Union (Withdrawal) Act (as amended by European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020), converts “direct EU legislation” - which is “operative” immediately before the end of the transition period (31 December 2020) - into domestic law at the end of the transition period 

EU legislation is “operative” if it enters into force and applies immediately before the end of the transition period.

Some EU legislation can apply in a staggered way over time. If a provision is stated to apply on or after 31 December 2020, the provision will not be converted into domestic legislation. It is possible therefore that only part of an EU instrument will be reflected into UK law.

For example the Animal Health Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/429) entered into force in 2016 but its provisions are not due to apply until April 2021. As a result, there would be no legal obligation to implement the Animal Health Regulation in Great Britain.

At the end of the transition period, Northern Ireland will continue to apply a limited set of EU rules, including on food. Annex 2 of the Northern Ireland Protocol lists the EU laws to be applied in Northern Ireland at the end of the transition period.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

1.6 Where will I be able to view retained EU legislation applicable to the UK seafood industry at the end of the transition period?

Schedule 5 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (c. 16), as amended by the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 (c. 1) requires arrangements to be made for the publication of retained international treaties as well as retained EU regulations, decisions and tertiary legislation.

All relevant instruments originating from the EU have been published on the legislation.gov.uk website.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

1.7 What does ‘falling back on WTO rules’ mean? What impact would this have?

If the UK leaves the transition period without concluding a future trade agreement with the EU beyond the Withdrawal Agreement, trade rules would change from those based on the EU’s single market and customs union to those of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This means that the UK government will be able to apply a UK tariff schedule and also a set of non-tariff measures, such as those relating to sanitary and phytosanitary controls, on goods traded between the UK and the EU. The same rules will apply to non-EU countries with whom the UK has no trade agreement.

The UK has been a member of the WTO since 1995. The WTO originates from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which the UK has been party to since 1948. Today, the WTO consists of 164 member states who meet regularly to agree on a range of activities regarding trade.

As Northern Ireland will continue to access future UK trade deals Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK WTO membership. The NIP would ensure that, for the purpose of the legislation included in it, NI would continue to be governed by those aspects of EU law.

Strictly speaking there are no rules in the WTO, just agreements that member states have bound themselves by. For instance the GATT promotes international trade by reducing or eliminating trade barriers such as tariffs or quotas. The agreements are usually complex, but there are some general principles:

Non-discrimination. WTO members must grant the same market access to all other member countries – except developing countries and those that have free trade agreements. A trading country cannot discriminate between trading partners e.g. by applying bans or discriminatory tariffs that apply only to particular countries. This is where the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff comes in. Under WTO rules the UK will have to apply its import tariffs equally to all trading partners. Any preferential treatment has to be in the context of Free Trade Agreements that are lodged with the WTO. The government can provide benefits to less developed countries, e.g. under the GSP regime.

Transparency. The UK tariff schedule, for example, will have to be a public schedule. The same applies for any quotas or non-tariff measures.

More information is available on the WTO website: www.wto.org

If you become aware of a barrier to trade with another country you can report the issue for resolution on the report a trade barrier portal

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

1.08 If no agreement is reached on the future relationship between the EU and the UK, will this result in the same outcome as a ‘no deal’ EU exit?

If no agreement is reached on the future relationship between the EU and the UK, the UK would end the transition period with the Withdrawal Agreement in place. Citizens’ rights would therefore be protected, the UK would still be committed to the financial settlement and Northern Ireland trade would be covered by the protocol.

In Great Britain however, trade could be impacted in the same way as a ‘no deal’, unless specific measures were agreed or taken unilaterally by the EU.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

1.09 What is the status of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)?

Under the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the EU, the UK will continue to participate in the programmes financed by the current EU Budget until their closure. This means that all EU funded programmes will be fully funded under the current 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework.

The government has guaranteed that all EMFF projects approved before 31 December 2020 will be fully funded.

For more information see guidance on ‘Continued participation in EU programmes’

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

Further guides

Please check back regularly for updates to the guidance.

Get in touch

If you have any questions about this guide or how Brexit might affect you and your business, contact our Regulation team.

Fiona Wright
Head of Regulatory Affairs
t:
01472 252333
m:
07876 035746
Ivan Bartolo
Regulatory Affairs Advisor
t:
01422843676
James Warwick
Research and Regulation Advisor
t:
0131 524 8682
Hannah Thompson
Regulatory Affairs Advisor
t:
01472 252 349